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Sadhvi Rithambara helped foment anti-Muslim hate in India in 1990s. What is she now doing in Atlanta?
She is considered the "single most powerful instrument for whipping up anti-Muslim violence" in India.
The dust has yet to settle and already Indian American Muslims are dealing with a new saga.
As discussed in last week’s newsletter, several weeks ago, a bulldozer decorated in posters of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath rolled down the main street of Edison. New Jersey, during the annual India Day rally.
The bulldozer has become a symbol of anti-Muslim and anti-minority hate in India over the past several years. Adityanath has pejoratively earned the nickname "Bulldozer Baba" over his extensive use of excavators.
Needless to say, Muslims in the US were shocked by brazen show of Hindu supremacy in this American town.
Despite the press around the issue, the multiple town council meetings and public hearings, the issue is still not resolved. Sources say an apology is being worked out, but there’s still nothing out in public.
As Indian American Muslims continue to reel from the bulldozer saga, it emerged some days ago that a key architect of anti-Muslim hate in India, will address Hindu Americans at a series of events in Atlanta this week.
Her name? Sadhvi Rithambara.
Ritambhara is the founder of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Hindu right wing organisation, formed in 1964.
She is notorious for her fiery words delivered in the lead up to the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 that shook up India, forever.
Writing in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars in 1993, historian Tanika Sarkar wrote:
“The demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 and the subsequent explosion of anti-Muslim pogroms all over India have highlighted the very real possibility of a right-wing takeover ofthe Indian state in the name of the Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) movement.'
“Any such transition would involve the redefinition ofthe state as Hindu rather than as secular or multicultural. It would also initiate a shift ofstate policies in a considerably more authoritarian, centralized, and militaristic direction than they are at the present moment.”
“The audio-cassette speeches of Sadhvi Rithambara, a woman ascetic of the VHP, were the single most powerful instrument for whipping up anti-Muslim violence.”
In the mid-1990s, Rithambara known to provoke anti-Christian violence, too.
Several years later, in August 2002, Rithambara traveled to Queens, New York, where she delivered an address at a temple.
A few dozen activists protested her presence but the speech went on.
Here are a few bytes:
“If someone repents after a making a mistake, we call him a human being. If he does not repent then we call him Satan. But if someone repeatedly makes mistakes, we call that Pakistan.”
"We cannot tolerate the world tear apart our Mother India," she said. "They say Pakistan is incomplete without Kashmir. And we say India is incomplete without Pakistan and Bangladesh. We are aiming to reunite India.”
“The next time there is a war, Kashmir will survive, but Pakistan will no longer exist.”
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In 2009, more than 16 years after it was launched to probe the events that led to destruction of the Babri Masjid and the murderous rampage against Muslims that followed, the Liberhan Commission concluded that Sadhvi Ritambhara was one of several people culpable of leading the country "to the brink of communal discord".
Ahead of this week’s events purportedly organised by the North American branch of the VHP, several activists, including the Indian American Muslim Council and Hindus for Human Rights, have called on organisers to cancel the gatherings.
With no response forthcoming, activists say they will be protesting outside the event on Tuesday.
On media freedom:
Last week, the Legal Forum for Kashmir, in partnership with UK-based Stoke White Investigation, launched a new report titled: “India Silencing Journalism and Human Rights in Kashmir”.
The report looked at “the machinations used by Indian state to ‘scrutinize and control the flow of information’ that goes outside of Kashmir” and argued that India’s counter-insurgency efforts were focusing on silencing Kashmir’s activists and journalists.
It concluded that human rights defenders were being harassed, surveilled, arrested and placed on no-fly lists.
Around 50 activists and journalists have been placed on no-fly lists.
The report also dovetails an article written by Raqib Hameed Naiq in Al Jazeera Media Review.
The article “Silence is no longer the answer - Kashmiri journalists living now in exile” explores how several Kashmiri journalists were now living in self-imposed exile abroad because of the threats on their work and livelihoods.
And finally, it just isn’t cricket.
As part of its diplomatic effort to improve ties with India, the Israeli embassy continues to try its best to connect with the Indian public. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s Bollywood.
This week, after India beat Pakistan at the opening game of the Asian Cup, it was cricket.
Until next time,
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